The End of Austin

an exploration of urban identity in the middle of Texas

Letter to the Sultan of Brunei

Photo by author

Photo by Sasha Zhdanov

One thing is for certain in the hearts and minds of our little “weird” city, and that is coming to the defense of our sacred landscape!  Granted, not everyone “gets” us, and that’s okay.  We prefer it that way!  When our anti-establishment mindset is challenged by altering our sphere of influence to a degree that borderlines on mockery, we will revolt.  Nothing will be held back as we contest the challenge, utilizing social media campaigns, phone calls, direct letters to uppity officials, and possibly even a few illegal moves.

An example of such a letter is printed below, just as a cordial warning for the would-be investor.  For clarity, the Sultan has not ventured into the Austin real estate market, for I’m sure, our counterpublic would be quite beneath him.  The example is purely fictitious, but the specific details in this form letter can be interchanged in a heartbeat to suit the situation. 

*     *     *

To the Honorable Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei:

Greetings, from the City of Austin, the home of “Keep Austin Weird” and the epicenter of all things hip!  I am writing to express my disappointment and question your motivations with your latest attempt to expand your Bel Air Empire.  Obviously, the message conveyed by your signage is a complete confusion between the meanings of weird and decrepit. 

Austin is a city which prides itself on the eclectic and unique; however, we do not appreciate international mockery of our enlightened perspective towards life!  The message you are conveying is disrespect to our “hippie” culture!  I readily admit that taste varies from locale to locale, but did you think we would fail to notice the drastic distinction between Bel Air-Los Angeles and Bel Air-Austin?  Your opulent West Coast property is drenched in a plethora of gold and marble finishes, basking under countless olive, fig, and palm trees.  The “weird” city gets relegated to window air conditioning units, with summer temperatures habitually reaching 149.5°F, and single-pane windows that barely open.  Honestly, did you believe that we wouldn’t voice our disdain over such incongruities just to preserve our cutting edge mentality?

You certainly did get a few things right in your attempt to jump on our “coolness” bandwagon.  How very apropos is the self-designated “one” star rating.  As such, are you surprised that this new “weirdly-luxurious” addition to your mega-empire has a vacancy?  I’m not!

While I would never expect to bump into the Fresh Prince (of Bel-Air) and Ms. Jada Smith over a candlelit dinner in this “one” star resort, I certainly would expect a higher level of taste from you than a tacky frozen pizza on a fold-out tray table pulled up to a cracked curb!  Gosh, I don’t think that even the 420-smokin’, braid wearin’, Willie Nelson would stay here, even though he is the King of Country Cool!  If we, the hippest citizens on the planet, fail to defend our uniqueness in the face of such deliberate abasement from a man of your riches and power, then we are complicit and culpable in precipitating the “End of Austin” and all that we hold sacred!

The simple message is this:  if you want to play in our “weird” little sandbox, bring the right toys!  We simply do not have the time or patience to hold your hand and explain it to you!  You have the money; hire a tutor!


Irreverently Sincere in Austin

*     *     *

So, there you have it.  Don’t mess with Austin!  And most importantly, don’t piss on our boots and then tell us it’s raining!  We’re a different breed of Texan down here in Longhorn Country, because we have the intellectual prowess to match our weirdness.  We’re not as dumb as we may appear!  Outsiders are welcome, but leave the baggage at the airport.  We like our Austin, exactly the way it is!

Just heed our warning:  mockery will, undoubtedly, allow us to find a special and new place for our cowboy boots!  The “End of Austin” will not be realized, but your “end” . . . well, you get the picture.

Sasha Zhdanov is a senior at UT graduating in May, 2014, simultaneously majoring in Cultural Human Geography and Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian Studies.  His future plans include attending grad school, which will be one step closer to his eventual Ph.D.  His adopted hometown is Moscow, Russia, and he enjoys incorporating Russian geography, history, language, and culture into all of my academic studies.  As a non-traditional, adult that returned to the university, finding his place in the Universe has been exceptionally fulfilling.  Also, Ian, his partner, and Cyka and Bosco, his pups, provide immeasurable amounts of love and support.

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